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Travel Guide: Bandarban, Bangladesh

Time seems to have stood still at Bandarban - the hilly tribal settlement 92 kms from Chittagong. Populated by a number of Hill Tract tribes, the atmosphere is excitingly primitive and colourful. Mongs, also known as Marmas, are the largest people here, having moved from neighbouring Myanmar a century ago. Followers of Lord Cautama - an `easy' avatar of Buddha - the Mongs are a happy lot, simple, fun-loving and hospitable to foreigners.

The Murong tribe also makes their home in Bandarban, but the people are more insular, rejecting modern influence in favour of their ancient customs and modes of livelihood. The Murong festivals, dance and music are of special interest to tourists, who can experience first-hand the rich culture and social mores these people live by.

Getting There

Distance from Dhaka: 187 kms

Chittagong (92 kms) is the nearest big city. Chittagong, in turn, is connected by road and air to Dhaka and other major cities in Bangladesh.

What to See and Do:

Rajbari

Rajbari - or royal home - is the residence of the King of the Mong tribe, located right in the heart of the Bandarban town. The settlement, in fact, has developed and spread with this impressive structure as its centre. The Rajbari is open to visitors for a few hours every day, and visitors flock in to see valuable items of royal life: battle gear, ornaments, garments, household goods and other memorabilia which describe opulence as the tribals see it.

Mekhala

Only 6 kms out of Bandarban is a beautiful patch of land called Mekhala, where tourists come to spend a lazy day of swimming, angling, boating and photography. The placid, emerald blue lake here is the hub of all activity, and the district administration has opened a mini zoo right next to it with local animals and birds. Restaurants and small eateries are aplenty, and there are a few rest houses and cottage available for overnight stay, in case you'd like to extend your day trip here.

Chimbuk Hill

The Chimbuk Hill represents the highest point of Bandarban. There's a narrow mud trail that takes you to the top in a long, steep climb, but adventure tourists like to take a more circuitous and scenic route. The sights from up there are incredible, with a swathe of the Chittagong plains rolling into the Bay of Bengal plainly in view.

Alir Suranga

The Alir Suranga is a huge tunnel which has only partially been explored. The bowels of Alir Suranga have concealed its mysteries for centuries and locals have spun tales of hauntings and deaths, which frighten people away. With permission from the Ali Kadam police headquarters nearby, the tunnel - certain lengths of it anyway - can be explored by adventurers and `ghost-hunters'.

Where to Stay

Green Hotel

Address: Press Club Bhaban, Main Road, Bandarban
Phone: (880-361) 374

Hotel Autithi

Address: Bandarban Bazar, Bandarban
Phone: (880-361) 535

Hotel Prue Abasika

Address: Bandarban Pourasava, Bandarban
Phone: (880-361) 257

Hotel Purobi

Address: Bandarban Sadar, Bandarban
Phone: (880-361) 531

Jamal Boarding

Address: Bandarban Bazar, Bandarban
Phone: (880-361) 431

Hotel Nurani

Address: Old Bus Station, Bandarban
Phone: (880-361) 459

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Research by Nabanita Dutt. Have something we should add to the list? Email us.

* * * * *

Published on 8/29/04

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